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Socialism with a melancholy heart : the red-collars and the making of reform socialism in Czechoslovakia (1945-1968) Yorumez, Baris Ahmet

Abstract

This dissertation examines the emergence and transformation of a new socialist intelligentsia in post-war Czechoslovakia, a group united by their shared social and emotional experiences in the two decades after the communist revolution in 1948. Their socio-emotional identifications and commitments led this group, whom I call the red-collars, to become the primary impetus behind the Czechoslovak socialist reform movement of the 1960s. Combining the methodologies of social and emotional histories, this dissertation argues that Czechoslovak reform socialism reflected the collective “melancholic” emotions and social discontent of the young intelligentsia that came of age as communists during or shortly after the Second World War. Many of them participated enthusiastically in the communist revolution of 1948 and the subsequent Stalinist crackdown on “class enemies” in the name of the revolution. The Communist Party regarded these young revolutionaries as the backbone of the new socialist intelligentsia and recruited them to universities and influential white-collar positions in various institutions across the country. However, following Khrushchev’s “secret speech” in 1956, many red-collars came to oppose the Party’s ruling logic, and they played an essential role in formulating and popularizing the democratic socialist program during the Prague Spring in 1968. My dissertation argues that reform socialism in Czechoslovakia was rooted in a dual rupture that the Party went through shortly after the revolution in 1948. The first dimension of the rupture was social. Although post-revolutionary class restructuring policies ultimately succeeded in creating a new socialist educated class, it did not secure their long-term loyalty to the official party line. Instead, many members of the newly educated class came to resent their relatively low level of income, social status, and political capital vis-à-vis the older party elites, many of whom occupied top political and administrative positions despite their lack of formal education. The second dimension of the rupture was emotional. After 1956, there emerged a collective sense of betrayal and guilt among many members of the country’s new intelligentsia. Throughout the 1960s, shared feelings of “melancholic political emotions” fueled the desire for reforming the system and reclaiming what they considered the humanistic core of socialism.

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